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The Nation

Jenna Bush dishes on fiance, Dad

In her first TV interview, the president's daughter tells Diane Sawyer about her new book.

September 28, 2007|Johanna Neuman | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Jenna Bush, the younger (by one minute) of President Bush's 25-year-old twin daughters, says she and other members of the family try their hardest to avoid the televised digs that abound about her father.

"We don't watch that much television," she said.

But tonight on ABC's "20/20," she is using the medium to promote her new book, "Ana's Story: A Journey of Hope," about a teen mother with HIV whom she met as a UNICEF intern in Panama -- and to provide a glimpse of her own life, including her recent engagement. In her first television interview, Bush told ABC's Diane Sawyer that she separates the poll numbers and the late-night jokes from the parent she loves.

"He's a different person to me than what they portray him as," she said. "He's a totally different person. I think that's normal. I mean, he's my dad."

She also talked about her fiance, Henry Hager, and his marriage proposal after a 90-minute hike up Cadillac Mountain in Maine's Acadia National Park. "I did not want to go hiking at 4 in the morning," she confided, noting that Hager is "extremely outdoorsy."

"It was freezing," she recalled. "But we got up, and we hiked in the dark . . . and then when we got towards the top, with the sunrise, he asked me."

Asked whether other White House children were role models for her and her sister, Barbara, she cited Chelsea Clinton, calling her "very kind and smart and articulate." Some critics of the war in Iraq, such as actor Matt Damon, have asked why Jenna and Barbara are not enlisting in the military, and Sawyer raised the issue.

"I understand that question," Bush said. "I think there are many ways to serve your country." Noting that she hopes to serve "by being a teacher," she added: "I think if people really thought about it, they know that we would put many people in danger."

Calling the war in Iraq "a really complicated subject," she declined to talk about it. "I'm also not a policymaker," she said.

After graduation, Bush worked as an elementary charter school teacher in Washington. Over the last year, she traveled to Latin America and the Caribbean as an education policy volunteer for UNICEF -- and met the woman whose story inspired her to write her book.

She is now working on another book in collaboration with her mother.

Her father is "doing a great job, and he's hanging in there," she said. Asked if she worries about him, Bush replied, "Probably . . . less than he worries about me."

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johanna.neuman@latimes.com

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